Nancie Atwell from Maine wins $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize

Atwell beats out 9 other finalists.

By Raif Karerat

WASHINGTON, DC: Nancie Atwell, an educator at The Center for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb, Maine, has been awarded the world’s first $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, termed by some as the ‘Nobel Prize for Teaching’.

In doing so, Atwell beat out India-based Kiran Bir Sethi, who was also a finalist, and eight other finalists. Sethi was a top 10 finalist who teaches at Riverside School in Ahmedabad.

“I want to congratulate Nancie Atwell for being the very first recipient of the Global Teacher Prize,” remarked Kerala-born entrepreneur and education philanthropist Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation and the Global Teacher award.

The $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize was created to recognize one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the field.

Atwell has written numerous books about education methods, including 1987’s “In the Middle,” which has sold more than 500,000 copies. She began teaching in 1973, and started the Center for Teaching and Learning in 1990. According to the Bangor Daily News, faculty at the “demonstration” K-8 school develop effective teaching methods and share them with educators who come from across the globe to observe her classrooms.

In an interview with the local news outlet, Atwell said she plans to use the $1 million prize to support and provide more student scholarships for the Center for Teaching and Learning. She also intends to invest some of the prize money in books as her school places a heavy focus on reading.

The finalists were whittled down from the top 50 shortlisted candidates, who were in turn chosen from over 5,000 nominations and 1,300 final applications from 127 different countries.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the president of Rwanda, and various other dignitaries were in attendance to see Atwell receive the award. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former Secretary of State and Hillary Clinton recorded video statements for the event.

“Attracting the best people to teaching, developing and supporting their skills, and holding them in high regard would lift learning levels all around the world,” Varkey Foundation Honorary Chairman Bill Clinton said.

The ten finalists were Azizullah Royesh (Afghanistan), Kiran Bir Sethi (India), Guy Etienne (Haiti), Jacqueline Jumbe-Kahura (Kenya), Nancie Atwell (USA), Naomi Volain (USA), Phalla Neang (Cambodia), Madenjit Singh (Malaysia), Richard Spencer (United Kingdom), Stephen Ritz (USA).

Varkey (born in 1957 in Kerala), is the founder and chairman of the global advisory and educational management firm GEMS Education, which is the largest operator of private kindergarten-to-grade-12 schools in the world, with a network of over 130 schools in over a dozen countries. He is also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, since 2012.

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